LEAs told to protect KESC men, installations

KARACHI, June 23: The Sindh High Court in its detailed order on a power company petition on Thursday directed the law-enforcement agencies to ensure due protection to the employees, management, installation and offices of the Karachi Electric Supply Company and remove blockade, if any, of the road and pavements in front of the KESC properties.

A division bench comprising Justices Sajjad Ali Shah and Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi had passed the order on June 17 while disposing of a power company petition seeking directions against the protesting employees, who had allegedly creating hindrance in the smooth operation of the KESC.

The KESC and its stakeholders, represented by Advocate Abid S. Zuberi, had earlier moved the SHC through a constitutional petition against the ongoing protest of its employees against its management.

Their counsel stated that the relationship between the KESC management and its labour union became strained due to a dispute between the power company and its estranged employees who allegedly caused heavy losses to the petitioner’s assets and properties.

He said that the KESC approached the National Industrial Relation Commission (NIRC) that restrained the labour union and all employees from resorting to strike, go-slow and demonstration, but the respondent employees had resorted to illegal demonstrations and blocked several KESC complaint centres and offices.

The petitioner submitted that the estranged employees also created faults in the power supply to blackmail the managements.

However, the employees’ counsel, Salahuddin Ahmed, stated that neither the employees represented by the labour union damaged the petitioner’s properties, nor did they threaten to go on hunger strike. He also denied that his clients were involved in the blockade of the KESC offices.

The court in its order observed: “We are mindful of the fact that the rights of the employees represented by the Respondent No 6 [labour union] to peaceful assembly and to express themselves in a peaceful manner is guaranteed by the constitution, likewise the petitioner’s right to conduct lawful business without any fear in a conducive atmosphere and therefore, a balance is to be struck between the rights of the petitioner as well as the said respondents so that the rights of one may not intrude the rights of other. There is not embargo or at least brought to our knowledge restricting the respondents from choosing a place for a lawful assembly but such restriction of course can be imposed to maintain public order or to prevent infringement of one another rights.”

The order said: “It is also important to observe that at the same time rights of said respondents even to peaceful demonstration in front of offices and installations of the petitioner cannot be extended to blocking the roads for days altogether which not only would cause hardship and inconvenience to public at large but would put the petitioner under constant fear that an incident of the nature as complained by the petitioner may not re-occur”.

The bench observed: “Besides, in view of the current law and order situation prevailing in the city such assembly of the respondent for days altogether in front of offices of the petitioner may provide an opportunity to the miscreants to create law and order situation not only to detriment of petitioner or even the said respondents but would cause inconvenience to public at large as the petitioner is in a business of providing one of the most important amenities which has now become a necessity to the public at large.”The order said: “Therefore, in order to avoid any untoward incident and to strike a balance between the rights of the respective parties we while disposing of this petition along with listed application direct the Respondents No 1 to 5 as under: (a) Ensure free ingress and egress of the employees and management of the petitioner KESC to their offices and installations. (b) Ensure due protection of the employees and management of the petitioner KESC and its offices and installations. (c) Ensure free access and due protection to the consumers who approach Customer Care Centre.”

The bench also ordered removal of all blockades in front of the KESC offices and installation to maintain public order and to avoid possible confrontation between employees and the management.

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